Trauma without a Subject: On Malabou, Psychoanalysis and Amour
“[Phineas] Gage’s body may be alive and well, but there is a new spirit animating it.”
“Gage was no longer Gage.”
-Antonio Damasio, quoted by Catherine Malabou
This paper will explore the relationship between the unthinkable and the un-representable in Michael Haneke’s Amour (2012), through an engagement with Catherine Malabou’s dialogue with psychoanalysis in The New Wounded. There, Malabou identifies what she sees as new forms of post-traumatic subjectivity that necessitate “the complete theoretical reinvention of psychopathology”. My approach will come from an avowedly Lacanian orientation, but I will be considering what sort of questions Malabou’s concept of “destructive plasticity” poses for psychoanalysis – and for psychoanalytic approaches to trauma – and wondering whether Žižek’s riposte to Malabou – for example – in Living in the End Times is sufficient to meet her challenge. My approach will also be that of a film theorist, and in this paper I will be seeking to ask what contribution the cinema can make to this dialogue on “cerebrality” and “plasticity”, and – equally – how this dialogue might help us to approach the depiction of trauma in Haneke’s film. Could Amour constitute a fictionalised, cinematic version of what Malabou (after Luria) refers to as a “neurological novel”, where “Anne is no longer Anne”? After all, Malabou herself refers to literature and theatre in her work, so – I will suggest – why not the cinema? As she says, “narrative work is a clinical gesture”, and so this paper will explore the possibility – through Amour – that the cinema could stage for the psyche knowledge of a trauma that the psyche itself cannot know. By focusing on Anne, I will attempt to explore the subjectivity of the new wounded and approach, from a Lacanian perspective, the post-traumatic subject’s experience of, for example, inhabiting the same body but in a radically different way.
Dr Ben Tyrer
King’s College London
Dr Ben Tyrer is a lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London. He is currently preparing a monograph, titled Out of the Past: Lacan and Film Noir, that explores a relation between the structures of Lacanian psychoanalysis and the historiography of film noir in order to examine questions of genre, ontology and narrative, with the aim of reinvigorating the field of Lacanian Film Studies. His research interests include film theory and film-philosophy, Left Bank filmmakers, and art and cinema.